While the most common colors for bengal cats are brown and silver, there are many variations of colors that bengal cats can be.
One of the less common of these is black.
Black bengal cats are born as a result of melanism, a genetic mutation that creates excessive pigmentation leading to a black color.
Melanism is rare in bengals, however it still does occur as with many other domestic cat breeds.
What Causes Melanism in Bengal Cats?
Melanism in bengal cats is caused by a mutation of the agouti (ASIP) gene.
If a domestic cat has a non-agouti gene, then melanism may occur, otherwise the cat will not be melanistic.
This study breaks down the full variances in genetics that can lead to the different colors that bengal cats have.
The deletion of the agouti gene is recessive, meaning that a melanistic bengal cat requires both it’s parents to have the non-agouti recessive gene.
A bengal cat does not need to be black in order to possess the non-agouti gene, it only needs to be carrying this gene to be able to pass it down to it’s offspring.
Since the non-agouti gene is recessive, it may be masked by a dominant gene, meaning two non-melanistic bengal cats could potentially produce a melanistic bengal if both of them have the non-agouti gene.
However, because this gene is recessive, melanistic bengal cats are far less common than their brown, silver, and white colored bengal counterparts.
How Common Are Black Bengal Cats?
Overall, melanism is uncommon in domestic cats.
While around 30% of all domestic cats are black, not all of these cats are melanistic.
The distinction between a black cat and a melanistic cat is that black cats do not retain their dark color after bathing in the sun, meaning that their black fur is actually dark brown whereas melanistic cats will maintain their shade of black regardless.
Another distinction is that the color of melanistic cats will stay consistent from birth, whereas non-melanistic cats may change in color throughout their lives and become lighter or darker with time.
In wild cats, such as jaguars and panthers, melanism occurs in around 10% of the population, depending on their region and other environmental factors.
Natural selection is not a factor in domestic cats, so the ability of melanism to be passed down through generations primarily depends on the demand for melanistic bengal cats from cat owners.
While there is not substantial data on how common melanism is in bengals, it is safe to assume that < 10% of bengal cats in the world currently have melanism.
How Much Do Black Bengal Cats Cost?
Black bengal cats tend to cost more than brown bengal cats since they are less common.
On average, bengal kittens cost around $1,500 – $3,000, this is because breeding bengal cats is often a difficult, time-consuming occupation and in order to ethically breed bengals, the price needs to be above $1,000.
Black bengal kittens are towards to higher end of this range, usually at around $2,000 – $4,000 depending on the region and the filial generation of that bengal.
Where to Buy Melanistic Bengal Cats
If you are interested in becoming the owner of a melanistic bengal cat, there are several options to do so.
If bengal cats are legal to own in your country or state, then there likely are catteries or bengal cat breeders in your area who may have a melanistic bengal cat available.
As always, make sure to inquire about the health information of a bengal and do a background check on the breeder before welcoming a new cat to the family!